There's a reason why Prince William always looks impeccably dressed. He relies on a solid foundation of classic men's style staples to take him everywhere from black-tie events to school runs. The result? Never trendy but always stylish, the Duke of Cambridge embodies classic men's fashion with a dose of royal flair.
A wardrobe built on classic men's fashion staples makes it a cinch to look pulled together, whether you're on a Zoom meeting, brainstorming ideas at the office, or headed to happy hour.
Here, men's fashion designer Richard Dayhoff and Onyx Martinez, lead stylist at the Tie Bar, break down 10 wardrobe staples that will help you master classic men's style.
1. The tailored navy suit
When it comes to the most flattering suit color, reach for navy blue. Every man looks good in a navy suit, our experts say, but it should be the right shade of blue.
"If you have darker hair and skin, go for a darker blue," Dayhoff says. "If you have lighter hair and skin, go for mid-tone blue."
To ensure proper fit, the top button of the suit jacket should button comfortably, Martinez says, and you should have a 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch of shirt cuff showing on the jacket sleeve. Any creases on the pants should drape straight down without any pulling, he adds.
Even if the suit fits well, Martinez recommends getting it altered to perfection. "Ninety percent of the time, most guys need something to get fixed," Martinez says, "whether the pants' waistline needs to be taken in or loosened or the jacket is too boxy."
A well-made suit should last between five to 10 years, he notes. To up the versatility, he suggests shopping for an all-season, 100% wool suit with a classic notched lapel and two-button jacket.
2. The button-down
A button-down shirt, ideally in 100% cotton, is the fulcrum of classic outfits for guys. Martinez recommends buying at least three white button-downs, then adding in color, such as light blue and lavender. "It's important to have these basics," he says. "It makes your morning effortless."
Look for high-quality non-iron shirts, he suggests. To keep your shirts looking fresh, wash and air-dry them at home (rather than dry-cleaning), and then grab the steamer to loosen any wrinkles.
3. The tie
The tie and button-down is always a winning combination. Start building your tie wardrobe with a medium-grey solid tie or small dot pattern tie. If you want something more adventurous, Martinez recommends paisley. "It's the most theatrical, fun pattern, but it's still timeless and sophisticated."
Pure, 100% silk ties feel nice on the hand and are the easiest to knot, he says. To keep your neckwear looking sharp, he recommends steaming them. "Sometimes you take the knot out and you're left with a bunch of wrinkles," he says. "Make sure and steam that portion out."
4. The blazer
Since it emerged in the early 20th century, the blazer has remained a sartorial stalwart. "It's that juxtaposition of a dressed-up jacket in a blazer," Dayhoff explains. "It says 'I'm a man of style.'"
Opt for a material with interesting texture, such as cashmere-wool or wool-silk-cotton blends, he says. A blazer looks extra stylish in solid black and grey, and in patterns, with contrast top-stitching and design details like brown buttons.
Also pay close attention to the fit and proportion, Dayhoff notes. The jacket should cover most of your behind and the shape should feature a soft shoulder.
5. The cashmere sweater
A cashmere sweater gets you the best of both worlds—comfort and elegance. "It's something you can wear under a blazer or on its own," Dayhoff says. "It should be lighter, then it becomes seasonless versus seasonal."
To find a lighter-weight cashmere sweater, look for lower-gauge fabric. For the most versatility, Dayhoff advises starting with darker colors like charcoal, dark blue, and black.
Think of a cashmere sweater as an investment piece, he says. "It's more about quality than quantity—you don't need more than one cashmere sweater if you take care of it."
6. The jeans
The right pair of jeans is a wardrobe workhorse you can rely on for years. "You can wear a great pair of jeans with white sneakers and your polo shirt, and you can also wear them with a blazer and a button-down shirt," Martinez says.
The stylist favors raw or untreated denim. "It's going to be a little stiff, but after you wear it a bunch of times, it will start to mold to your body," he says.
Distressed denim may lend a more casual, trendy appearance, so the stylist suggests sticking with a dark wash for greater versatility. Stretch will provide comfort and ease of wear, so he recommends looking for fabric containing 10–20% elastane.
Martinez says that a well-made pair of jeans should last at least five years. "Jeans will only get more comfortable over time," he says. "You want to get to the point where they feel like a second skin. A good pair of denim jeans will do that."
7. The polo shirt
This superstar of casual Fridays offers the versatility of a T-shirt while upping the suave factor. "It's the transition piece between the simple T-shirt and dress shirt," Martinez says. "It allows you to be presentable and comfortable in a relaxed fashion."
Pure, 100% cotton offers year-round wear, while merino wool works in cooler climates. Give yourself room to experiment by adding polo shirts in grey, navy, and black to your closet, Martinez says—and when the color starts to fade, it's time to replace them.
8. The khaki pants
The perfect fashion in-between, these tan-hued bottoms are more dressed up than jeans and less formal than suit pants.
"They're a staple because men don't have to think about it," Dayhoff says. "But make sure the fit is there. If the rise isn't right or if they're too long, it's over."
To get the perfect fit, the designer advises dressing in proportion to your body shape—in other words, if you're lean, opt for a lean cut. "Get them properly hemmed," he emphasizes. "The hem should fall above the sole, in the middle of the heel in back."
Another tip? Look for pants made with cotton stretch to allow for flexibility (they're also more likely to retain their shape over the years).
9. The black T-shirt
Refined and simple, a stretch-cotton black T-shirt is one of your most important wardrobe wingmen.
This versatile men's fashion staple visually slims the torso and takes the focus from the abdomen, Dayhoff says. "A black T-shirt can go from morning to evening, worn under a jacket, to the gym, or out to dinner," he adds. "You should have more than one—I have 12."
Look for performance features, like quick-dry or anti-bacterial agents, to help the shirt last as long as possible.
10. The cap-toe Oxford
The iconic Oxford shoe, with a rounded toe, defines elegance. "It can be worn with jeans and you'll look like a million bucks," Dayhoff says. "It's perfect for a suit and so timeless. You can also wear it with a tuxedo."
While it's a good idea to have a couple of versions of this shoe, if you're buying only one, black offers the most versatility, he says. "Brown is only for daywear."